Meet Sarah McDonald, the stage manager for Gordon College Theatre Arts’ spring show, Measure for Measure! Sarah is a freshman at Gordon and has been working hard alongside director Norm Jones since February to bring this grand show to life.
Tell us a little about yourself.
I am from a very small town in Rhode Island, North Kingstown, and I am double majoring in Communication Arts and Social Welfare with a minor in Theatre. I’m doing a little bit of everything. I am not shying away from over-achieving at this point. I started off the semester double majoring in Communications and Theatre Arts, but I’ve realized how I wanted to implement some of the Social Welfare aspects into it as well. Just to broaden my horizons on the things that I’m studying, always keeping theatre as I’m not willing to give up. It started off as a high school hobby, now it’s a way of life, and I plan to keep it involved in my life in the future as well.
What does it mean to be a stage manager? What are your responsibilities?
What isn’t your responsibility as the stage manager is the better question! I am creating rehearsal reports every single rehearsal. I am cataloging blocking, props, costumes, all of the staging and notes that we make on character development. I am keeping track of set design and set pieces and how that’s all coming together.
What drew you to Gordon’s Theatre program?
I learned about the Gordon Theatre program from my high school director, and she thought I would love it here. She thought I would really flourish here because of this concept that we have of ambition. Nothing is impossible here. It doesn’t matter if it’s student-led or if there are professors involved, there is no such thing as impossible. We have the ability even mainly just with student leadership to create amazing sets, to get all these awesome costumes, and to have all these cool amenities that in my high school theatre department we didn’t always have. So, I think what drew me the most was the concept of “yes we can.”
What is it like to be the stage manager of a mainstage show as a Freshman?
Oh, it’s a hoot and a half. It’s a lot different in many ways than high school performances because, again, it’s taking on a ton more responsibility because we have a ton more people to keep track of, but it’s so wonderful. It’s so much more collaborative. I love that I’m seen as an equal even though I’m just a freshman. It doesn’t matter that I’m 19, people love me and respect me. They know that I want what is best for them, and they want to be a part of the collaborative theatre with me. It’s never a dull moment, it’s always so exciting.
How does this show compare to your past experience in stage management?
Doing a show where there is no audience is very weird. When you’re preparing for a show and you’re not considering transitions from the audience perspective and you’re not choreographing how you’re moving set pieces to best fit the audience, it’s very bizarre. It feels like there’s something missing, and yet it feels like there is so much opportunity. I’m seeing now as we’re incorporating cameras, we are able to take on this whole new realm of thinking, and pushing ourselves completely out of our comfort zone. I’m a big believer that there is no comfort zone in theatre. If you’re in your comfort zone in theatre, you’re doing something wrong. So I love how we are pushing ourselves, trying new things, and we are problem-solving from tons of different angles. Yes, it’s annoying not having an audience, but at the end of the day it’s an opportunity! While it is very different from what I’m used to and what I typically enjoy, I am very excited about it.
What has been your favorite moment during a rehearsal?
I think my favorite moments are when we are working specifically with the crowd, and we take moments to all work together to be collaborative and think about “what do the crowd members want? What are they gonna say? How are we gonna move around? How can we get the principal actors to interact with the crowd members? How can we incorporate dialogue in different ways?” I think that’s the most fun part because it really is all hands on deck, and that’s always my favorite. Everyone gets to feel a little bit like a mini director in that moment.
Why should people watch Measure for Measure?
First of all, because oh my goodness! The amount of talent going into this show is phenomenal. From the set, to the acting, to the costumes, to the props, it is beautiful to look at! Second of all, it has a message of justice that we need to hear right now. And I feel that in many ways it is a hard message to hear, but through this lens of Shakespeare, and through the phenomenal acting, it is one that you WANT to hear. It will be enjoyable to hear, even if it is hard to process.